A Couple of Social Occasions
Boris Razumov was aware that he was getting tangled up in various ways with the young American, Tom Williams. It was Boris' fault, of course. He had first sent that warning through Charles Twistleton, and he had then taken Tom to a party at which Tom had met Elaine Kittredge. Now, Boris was to meet and interview the woman who had been causing the problems, Elizaveta Kholmanskaya, nee Shaposhnikova. That last was a name that still meant something in the Soviet Union, and this lady, if her reputation was any guide, was to be dealt with extremely carefully.
The meeting was to take place in the lounge of the Roger Smith Hotel, a distinctly unfashionable downtown hotel patronized only by tourists. Boris got there first, and, when Mrs. Kholmanskaya appeared ten minutes later, he was unpleasantly surprised. He viewed himself as, above all, a civilized man. It was true that he could joke and be amusing, but he was by no means wild, or even very spontaneous. His affairs with women were legendary, true enough, but, even there, he had been largely acting under orders. Left to his own devices, he might even have married.
It was important to Boris to be perceived as a European, not so very different, for example, from his English friends. Here in front of him, he saw immediately, was a wild creature from the Soviet east. Not a pure Asiatic, of course, but the eyes were unmistakeable. She was the last thing one would expect in the grandaughter of a field marshal, and that most gentlemanly of field marshals in particular.
When she spoke, Boris' fears were somewhat calmed. She spoke French. It was, after all, her cover. After a minute or two, she almost seemed French. That is, if one didn't look too closely at the eyes and the hair. And then, too, Boris was a man who could allow for his prejudices. He felt about Mongols much as his American friends felt about black people. But this woman was a beautiful combination of contradictory things, perhaps like that other great spy, Mata Hari. Feeling as he did at that moment about Tom Williams, it seemed to Boris that this was much too extraordinary a woman to be wasted on that young man. Tom could have the great majority of his needs perfectly well satisfied by a high-school cheerleader.
The subject to be discussed was a little tricky, and Boris began, in the best tradition of Russian bureaucracy, by mumbling and shuffling the papers he took out of his briefcase. He then said,
"I have a message for you, comrade. It's from an unusual source through unusual channels. So much so, in fact, that we might best go for a walk in the fresh air."
She would understand, of course. There were spies, Soviet as well as American, everywhere, and Boris' immediate superiors would certainly like to hear the message which had been sent to him with explicit instructions not to divulge it to the embassy staff, that is, to them.
When they were outside, walking along the elegant tree- lined street, he said,
"My instructions come from a man whose real name I don't know, but it seems likely that he's the one who originally arranged for you to take up this mission. Do you know who that would be?"
The lady smiled and replied,
"I imagine so. Am I to tell you?"
Boris didn't answer directly, saying only,
"He often uses the name Mikulin, if that's familiar to you."
"Then you haven't met him in person."
"No. Why do you say that?"
"He's used that name before, but only at a distance. It would strike you as inappropriate if you met him."
Boris wondered why the name would be inappropriate. Then it came to him! Because it was a Russian name and the man didn't look Russian. Another Mongol, or something almost as bad. It was such a man who had been giving him instructions! Then, putting a couple of other things together, he had the answer. He said to the lady,
"Is it Comrade Kublaikov?"
She nodded and asked,
"Is it he who has sent the message?"
"Yes. He wishes you to return to your former position in the Soviet Union. I don't even know what that position was."
"I was his translator and assistant. He got tired of me, and suggested me for this assignment. I had little alternative. He may now be tired of my replacement, but, if I go back and replace her, he'll get tired of me again."
"If you refuse, he may conclude that you've gone over to the Americans."
There was a frightening look from her eyes as she asked,
"What about you, comrade? I've heard about you and your affairs. One might reasonably think that you've gone over to the Americans. Would you go if you were ordered home?"
"As it happens, I'm following Comrade Mikulin's orders in everything that I do. I've never deviated from them."
"Does the ambassador here know what you're doing?"
It was, of course, none of her business. But, despite her more alarming aspects, here was, for the first time, someone who worked for the same man and in whom he could confide. He answered,
"Not in any detail. It makes it very difficult. The people here think I've just become a western playboy, and it infuriates them that they can't do anything about me."
There was a silence when they reached and crossed a busy street. Mrs. Kholmanskaya then said,
"We're in a strange position. If there's war and our country wins, we'll be killed. If America strikes first, we might possibly survive."
"Diplomats are used to that kind of thing. It's always in the back of our minds that the influential friends we make in the host country may one day keep a mob from lynching us."
"I suppose the best thing for us, even more than for most people, is simply peace."
"That again makes you like a diplomat. Most diplomats are instinctively peace-makers, and the ones from different countries generally have more in common with each other than they do with their own countrymen."
"But you aren't a real diplomat. You're an agent of Igor Kublaikov. Just like me. And Igor wants war!"
She smiled in an unsettling way. Boris sighed and replied,
"Life would be much simpler for me if I were an ordinary diplomat."
"For me, too. I don't want to go back to Igor, but I don't want to really defect to America. I'm a loyal Soviet citizen."
"I understand that, certainly. But there's the matter of sending a reply back to Comrade Mikulin. Even if you agree, it would take some time to arrange your return. The Americans think you belong to them, and they won't just let you go."
"I could send a letter asking Igor to tell me exactly what he wants me to do. He might well fly into a rage and refuse to respond. But I'd have on record an obediant letter merely asking for instructions."
It was agreed that she would give Boris such a letter to send. They then returned to the hotel, where he had already taken a room.
It didn't surprise Boris very much when Elizaveta agreed to go upstairs with him on the barest pretext. But it was still a thrill. In fact, the thing he liked best of all was that moment with a new woman when he knew she was willing. Nothing else could match that moment when a beautiful self- possessed woman, absolutely complete in herself, stood in front of him, elegantly dressed and full of dignity but figuratively naked.
As they went up in the elevator, talking about the likelihood of rain that evening, it occurred to Boris that it was really not such a miracle as he had supposed. After all, she wanted to please him. And, like the others, she would enjoy it. He hoped only that she didn't have a wicked curved knife hidden somewhere in her costume.
When the elevator stopped, Boris watched Elizaveta's face in profile, trying to catch her eye and establish complicity. She looked at him, and then looked away contemptuously. Could he have been mistaken?
When they entered the room, Boris opened the water tap in the bathroom, saying,
"In these highly conspiratorial meetings we must always guard against hidden microphones."
She laughed at that, but, when he put his hands to her neck, she pushed him off and walked out of the room. After a moment's hesitation, he rushed after her to apologize. Not finding her in the corridor, he looked everywhere, and even took the elevator down to the lobby. But, then, when he got back to the room, he found her seated naked at the table, playing solitaire.
After that, there were no more surprises. It was very good, but, then, it was always very good. As Elizaveta got dressed, she said,
"You see, it wasn't so dangerous. I had no knife, and I didn't try to cut it off."
She laughed at her joke with great abandon, and Boris joined her, rather weakly.
When Tom next called Elizaveta, it wasn't easy to know what to say to her. He didn't think that a humorous reference to their last outing would be well taken. On the other hand, it would be hard to ignore all that had happened. She solved the problem by sounding as if she had been waiting for months to see him. Then, before Tom could say anything, she invited him to help her chaperon a formal dance at the school. He was a bit surprised, but, remembering that he could now afford to rent a tuxedo, he agreed. It was arranged to have dinner before the dance, and he felt fairly sure that, this time, he wouldn't find her hitch-hiking into Washington.
Tom's new car was one Bruce practically gave him when Bruce's wife finally prevailed on him to get a new car. It went pretty well, but the amount of rust on it contrasted oddly with Tom's tuxedo. When he arrived at the school, he parked on an uphill slope before he remembered that this car had a reverse gear.
Elizaveta appeared suddenly on the broad porch of the main building just as Tom came up the steps. She had on a rather modest dark blue floor-length gown which partially covered her shoulders and was fitted closely over her waist and hips. Her black hair was lifted up and fastened on top of her head, which accentuated the sharp, perfect angles of her face.
On this, their first real date with no business facade, it struck Tom that Elizaveta looked, not only grown-up, but older than the thirty-one years he had calculated her to be. It wasn't a matter of wrinkles. She, in fact, had smooth white skin with silver overtones. But it was her watchful black eyes and, when she wasn't laughing or being gay, her reserved contemptuous expression that more than overbalanced the girlishness of her figure and the spontaneous energy in her face. She had the austere look now, a perfect match for her little silver earrings and the delicate silver pendant at her throat. When she noticed Tom, she smiled briefly and ambiguously, and then walked toward him, more slowly than usual. Tom had never seen anyone so stately, and he burst out,
"You look as if you've just come from the coronation of the the Czar Nicholas."
"My grandfather was there, as a young officer in the Imperial Guards."
She spoke, not in her usual intense way, but casually, in the manner of Mr. D. O. A. Desmond. It was only in that moment that Tom realized that Desmond, despite his informality, was really a very elegant man. With these thoughts momentarily confusing him, he replied,
"I didn't know you could be an Imperial Guards officer and remain in communist Russia."
"Not all guards officers were whites. Grandfather Shaposhnikov chose the reds."
She had mentioned her grandfather before. Tom had done a little research on him and asked,
"Was he the one who was Stalin's chief of staff?"
"Yes. The only general Stalin really trusted. My original name was Elizaveta Borisovna Shaposhnikova."
That was quite a mouthful. But it could have meant a good deal, at least if it weren't a fabrication of the NKVD. Tom asked,
"How did you come to be put in such a bad position with such powerful relatives?"
"Two bad marriages. My father married a Mongol, which would be almost like marrying a gypsy here. And I married a notoriously unreliable man. Then, by the time he was dead, my other relatives were also dead. There wasn't anyone left to go to."
As they walked down the drive to the car, Elizaveta absently managing her skirt with one hand, Tom felt as if he were a part of some fantasy. The setting suggested Scarlett O'Hara, but his companion was both smarter and more beautiful. Nor, despite her arbitrariness and unpredictability, was she cruel enough to be a young Catharine the Great. Knowing that he needed to categorize her in order to deal with her, Tom recalled that she did represent some sort of crossing of lines emanating from a Russian field marshal and Genghis Khan. That didn't help very much, and, blundering on without any clear concept in his head, Tom asked,
"Is it Genghis Khan's tombstone that has engraved on it, 'If I were alive, you would tremble.'"
"No, that's Tamarlane. Another leader of an eastern horde. I think he was probably rather like Stalin."
"It must have been very dangerous to serve Stalin."
"Yes. He had Tukhachevsky and scores of other generals executed in the purges and afterwards. Stalin seemed to carry to an extreme the native Russian fear of anyone who has ability, and is therefore different."
"How did your grandfather survive, then?"
"We often wondered. I think it was because he was such a gentleman. The other generals were mostly former cavalry sergeants. They boasted and they lacked sensitivity. It may be that Stalin, and Tamarlane for that matter, were men who appreciated good manners and courtesy. Even if they didn't quite realize it themselves."
That, too, might have been a sort of joke, but Tom wasn't sure. When he held open the creaking rusty door, Elizaveta got in without seeming to notice that the stuffing was coming out of the seat. Then, after he got in, she said,
"Since there's a lot of time before the dance, and we can't spend all of it eating, I wondered if we could visit the battlefield again."
Tom didn't quite say that her wish was his command, but he did manage to automotively click his heels with a brisk start. She said,
"It's impossible to live in this area without being conscious of the Civil War and the old south. This dance will attempt to be something out of 'Gone with the Wind'."
"I was just thinking of Scarlett O'Hara. Will the girls all be trying to be Vivian Leigh?"
"Most certainly. Women's evening costume hasn't changed that much in a hundred years, and they'll all have bouffant skirts over petticoats."
Tom gathered that Elizaveta was trying to work herself into the spirit of the thing with another look at the battlefield. And, of course, her grandfather would have approved.
When they parked near a ridge, Elizaveta pointed to a path leading to a partially open log-cabin some hundred yards distant. It wasn't clear whether it was an old mini-fort or a modern creation of the park service for the convenience of tourists.
Elizaveta led the way, seeming to have no difficulty in walking along the uneven path in her long skirt and high heels. They met a family coming back to the parking lot, and the children were amused to see people in evening costume. The parents shushed them, smiled pleasantly at Tom and Elizaveta, and were soon gone.
The little look-out station, whose architecture seemed to be inspired by the WPA, was, for all that, idyllic. The view of a sunken road skirting a hill and crossing a creek on a little timber bridge contained not the slightest suggestion of motion. It was like a still photograph, taken in the ebbing warmth of a late summer day and transfixing even the birds on their perches. Tom could hardly realize that an angry and brutal massacre, even by the standards of a civil war, had taken place there.
Just when he supposed that Elizaveta must be trying to recreate the battle in her imagination, she asked,
"Is there too much height difference between us to dance? Will we look ridiculous?"
As if to answer, she took Tom's hand and slid in against him. As they moved together, Tom ran his hand over the smooth material of her dress and said,
"If we dance slowly and take little steps, it should be all right."
He was actually looking down at the top of her head when she tossed back her head, threw both arms around his neck, and twisted her hips half away in a pattern of movement that was unfamiliar to him. Not knowing how he was supposed to move in some dance that might have come anywhere from Leningrad to Karakoram, he remained still as she continued to twist and rub lightly against him. Then, as soon as he slid his arm around her back, she released and spun away with a pirhouette. He followed her, rather in the manner of Frankenstein, but she slipped past him quickly to the opening of the little hut. Preceding him along the path with her skirt caught up in one hand and the white of her slip showing, she called to him to hurry lest they be late for dinner.
They were a little late for the reservation, but there was no problem getting a table. It being Virginia, they weren't the only people in formal dress and Tom didn't feel his usual embarrassment at being in a tuxedo. After ordering, he asked Elizaveta about her experiences during the war. He was getting the impression that everything that happened in the Soviet Union was conditioned in one way or another by the war, and that it had to be understood before progressing on to anything else. She replied,
"For a Russian woman, what matters is where you were and how old you were when the war started. I was fifteen, not a good age, but not the worst one. It's bad to be violated at any age, but a grown woman has more sense of herself. She then has a greater feeling of shock and shame when it happens."
Elizaveta paused a moment, and then continued,
"As regards place, we were in a town near Smolensk, and that was very bad. It was taken and re-taken four times. That meant four sets of rapes."
Tom had known that his question was a sensitive one, but he hadn't expected quite that. He asked,
"Even by your own troops?"
"Yes. It was opposite with the Germans and Russians. The German front-line troops treated civilians decently and gave the children candy. But the bureaucrats and the Gestapo came soon after. Our front-line troops were almost always drunk, and the combination of fighting and vodka could turn them into half-crazed animals. One time they were Mongols, and it didn't do my mother, or me, any good because she was a Mongol. But the officials protected us when they arrived."
"Did your whole family survive?"
"The Gestapo lined up all the leading people of the town against a wall and shot them. That included my father, who was an engineer. If they had known that my mother was a doctor, they would also have shot her. It may have been that they didn't expect an Asiatic-looking woman to be important. My mother, sister, and I were all raped innumerable times. In fact, my first sex was a rape, and I've never been entirely comfortable about sex since."
That wasn't good news from Tom's perspective, but he said,
"I can't imagine what it would be like to be in a town that's being taken."
"The first time, it was quiet. Our soldiers came streaming through the town in retreat all day, and then, at dusk, a Panzer division arrived. First the armored cars and trucks, and then the tanks. Only a few shots were fired on the outskirts of town, and we peeked out our windows at the Germans. But, the next time, the town was defended by the Germans and we were shelled by Russian artillery. We got under the house and huddled there for hours."
Elizaveta's tone was rather flat as she spoke of these things, and it was as if in afterthought that she said,
"The last time the town was taken, the retreating Germans took my mother and sister with them. They were never heard of again."
It seemed to Tom that, if he once registered emotion or sympathy, it might lead almost anywhere. He asked only,
"But you hid from them?"
"No, I was taken too. I think it was because we were mistaken for gypsies, who were being exterminated. We tried to explain to the Gestapo men, but they didn't understand Russian and my German wasn't good enough. It probably didn't make any difference anyhow. We were put in a horse-drawn wagon and taken to the railway station to be put into box cars."
Tom merely waited while Elizaveta took a drink of water. Then she said,
"There was a wait at the sidings and a guard took me off to a hut to rape me. He laid down his rifle, a captured Russian one, and, while he was on top of me, I reached for it and drove the bayonet right through his wind-pipe. Then, I hid under a railway car. When they eventually found him, there was a great hue and cry. I remained under the car for a night and a day, until our troops over-ran the railway yards. I came out then, and was raped again."
This time, Tom had no doubts about the truth of Elizaveta's story. He said,
"I've never before met anyone with experiences like that."
"They aren't American experiences. What was the war like for you?"
"Well, I was a little kid, eight when it started. There was a certain amount of hysteria right after Pearl Harbor, and we expected to be bombed. There were pamphlets instructing us how to deal with incendiary bombs, and air-raid wardens were appointed all over Boston. We kids started learning about all the different kinds of planes and playing war games instead of cowboys and Indians. Half the time, we were Germans and Japs. We found them exotic."
"So did we. At first. You were never bombed, were you?"
"No, we were way out of range, and people realized it after a while. But, in the meantime, they'd set up a system of air- raid spotters. The adults soon got bored with it, and I and the other kids were recruited to man the local station, a shed on top of a hill."
"Did you have any planes to report?"
"There were lots of American P-47 fighters on training missions. I was supposed to pick up the phone, say 'Army Flash,' and report the type of plane and position. I knew enough to know that it was impossible to tell a P-47 from the very rare P-43s at any distance, but there was no provision for reporting ambiguities like that. I could only report an unidentified aircraft."
"But that could have been an enemy one, couldn't it?"
"Sure, but no one cared in the least. So that was my war experience."
"No one you knew was killed?"
"No one close. There was a guy down the street whom I hadn't known. His mother had a gold star in her window, but I kept away from her, not knowing what to say."
"Old soldiers usually boast about their war experiences. You could boast about the number of unidentified airplanes you saw."
"You could boast about having killed a German soldier. Not so many women have done that."
"They did in Russia. There were even women's infantry battalions. But we never boasted like the men. We just put the war behind us and tried to make up for lost time. I was nineteen when the war ended, not really more mature than some of the girls I teach here, but I had no family. The Soviet state rescued me. I got schooling, everything I needed. I was too busy to think about my wartime experiences and we weren't convinced, as you are here, that everything has to be talked out. There are very few psychiatrists in Russia."
"That's California you're thinking of. I've never been to a psychiatrist either. But you must have talked about those wartime experiences with your husband."
"Never. The last thing Victor needed to know was that I'd killed a man during sexual intercourse. It would have rendered him impotent forever."
Elizaveta was laughing as she spoke, but she added,
"I've only told one person before you."
"Who was that?"
"You must have been quite familiar with her."
"Well, I was. There was one time, particularly, when we were together a lot and talked for hours on end. There wasn't anything else to do. We were in the outskirts of Berlin, but, of course, important people can't just go out and see things and wander about the streets. They might as well be imprisoned."
"What were you doing in Berlin?"
Tom asked without thinking, expecting to hear that they had been on a shopping trip. Elizaveta replied,
"It was Igor's idea. We were in Moscow during a tense time, a time that he and his friends were helping make tense. He convinced Khruschev that the one safe place would be Berlin, the one place the Americans would never bomb. So we picked up and flew there one day when things looked bad. Nina Petrovna and the family were taken along, but she hated it. I don't know if anyone could get her to go another time."
"I bet Kublaikov would go, though."
"Oh yes. He's a brave man, but he's never believed in taking unnecessary risks."
This time, Tom knew that he had pure gold. But was it being fed to him? He managed to talk while he thought. The plan made sense. He knew that Berlin wasn't targetted. How could America destroy the place it had promised to protect? And yet the Soviet forces surrounding the city would also be spared, and would be able to take West Berlin in a few hours.
At the same time that he was raising these issues with himself, Elizaveta was telling him more about Nina Petrovna.
"She half overlaps with her husband. They have in common a strong urge to defend what would here be called traditional values. They think the west is decadent and immoral, and they're as suspicious of sexual freedom as they are of capitalist greed. They're also very protective of their daughters, and even their son-in-law."
"So, in times of danger, they have to be all together?"
"That's the only thing that would get Nina Petrovna to Berlin again. If she couldn't persuade Nikita Sergeivich not to go."
"You said they half overlap. How do they differ?"
"He's an ambitious man who wants to hold and keep power. He's willing to compromise with people like Igor Kublaikov. She wants peace at almost any cost. I think that, if it were left to her, she'd have Igor shot. She's a strong woman. She may manage it some day if he makes a false step."
When the food came, they let the family life of the Khruschevs drop. It was later, when Tom was stuffed and totally relaxed, his stomach bubbling away happily, that Elizaveta said to him,
"Tom, you should be a decent man and defect to the Soviet Union with me."
He spilled some coffee on the table cloth on which he had already scattered some food and sauce, and she began to laugh uproariously. It was, apparently, another joke. Tom objected, also in a humorous tone,
"I bet we wouldn't be able to go to places like this and eat as well."
Tom had forgotten that Elizaveta didn't like the food at this particular restaurant. She screwed up her nose and replied,
"I'll cook a Russian dinner for you one night. You'll like it much better."
They bantered on for a bit about the comparative advantages of their countries, and Tom finally said, somewhat ingenuously,
"Anyhow, you couldn't go back if you wanted to, could you?"
She replied, this time more seriously,
"Don't tell Colonel Smith, but I occasionally see a man from our embassy. He says I might be able to go back even though I haven't learned anything about America that would interest them."
Tom couldn't resist saying, in a joking way,
"Would it help if I gave you some secrets?"
She replied, in the same tone,
"I don't want your secrets, I want you. We'll make wonderful violent love together."
"I thought you didn't like sex."
"I can get involved at times. Even when I can't, I know how to delight a man."
Elizaveta then touched his arm with familiarity, smiled at him, and suggested that it was time to leave for the dance.
There were two other couples acting as chaperones at the dance, the idea apparently being that they could have companionship without having to subject themselves to the conversation of teen-agers. Elizaveta reverted to being Anne- Marie, the French teacher of languages, and one of the other ladies greeted her in French. Tom soon discovered that noble Virginians took pride in speaking French, and he felt a sudden panic until one of the men said to him in a deep gruff voice,
"I bet you don't speak French either, young feller."
Out of relief at finding each other, they quickly introduced themselves and traded background information. Tom's new friend, a man of sixty or so, was a recently retired marine general. Tom was used to generals from DRI, and General Howard seemed even more relaxed and humorous than General Edwards. Oddly, quite apart from not knowing French, General Howard didn't seem like a Virginia gentleman. But, then again, he would have to be one to be there at all. Perhaps his gentility was of a somewhat deviant sort.
There was also in him an intelligence which was obvious to Tom, but one which he thought Goldstein wouldn't have recognized. When Tom said that he worked for the Defence Research Institute, the general laughed loudly, whammed him on the shoulder, and said,
"So you're a DRI whippersnapper."
"I'm afraid so. Have you been around there?"
"Not directly, but I ended up as deputy commandant of the Corps. The commandant was laid up in the hospital a good deal, and I went to JCS meetings in his place. Some of your reports ended up there."
Tom was much impressed with the man he had met by pure coincidence. They had a retired four-star army general at DRI, but they didn't have anyone who had participated in Joint Chiefs of Staff meetings.
On reflection, Tom realized that General Howard's presence wasn't as great a coincidence as it had seemed. The hinterlands of Virginia sheltered even more retired officers than they had in the days of Lee and Pickett, and these men belonged to a class which sent its progeny to schools such as the Fairmile Academy. In this case, it was a grandaughter.
"She's somewhere over there, on the other side of that fat boy."
Tom looked in the indicated direction, but saw only a swarm of young people in tuxes and huge voluminous dresses. He replied,
"She must be popular to be in the center of the group."
"She's a pretty girl. Nice, too. She'll come over to see us at some point. I may even dance with her. You can too."
The general then looked at Tom sideways and said,
"Course I'll have to tell her that you work for the enemy."
Tom did realize that the general was joking, but it still made him uneasy in the light of suggestions that had been put to him at dinner. The enemy, however, turned out to be, not Russia, but the United States Army. Tom protested,
"We are sponsored by the army, but we have officers from other services around, and I don't think anyone watching us, day by day, would know which service we work for."
General Howard replied,
"That may be true at a certain level, but the source of the money always makes a difference. You may produce unbiased reports, but you don't know what happens to them afterwards."
Tom hadn't thought of such a possibility. He was used to the academic world, in which it would be a high crime to alter someone else's work without his knowledge or consent. It then occurred to him that their reports might be sent to the army without any names attached. Not only would the authors be denied their rightful credit, but no one would then have the least qualms about changing their results. He admitted,
"I don't even know exactly where our reports go."
"I can tell you that. If they're interesting enough, they'll go all the way to the chief of staff of the army, Maxwell Taylor. He'd occasionally flourish one at JCS meetings, generally paraphrasing it in his own words."
"Did you get them to read?"
"Well, you have to realize that the Marine Corps is included in the JCS only with the understanding that we be good boys and not make any noise. It's sometimes said that we don't have a chair at the top table, only a stool. So I wasn't usually given much to read. I just had to take Taylor's word for it."
In what followed, Tom got an education in what it was like to participate in the highest council of the American military. On the score of inter-service rivalry, General Howard said,
"The marines have a love-hate relationship with the navy. They land us on the beach, and we fight. It demands co- operation, and it can go right or wrong in innumerable ways. With the army and marines, it's pure hate. We have overlapping combat roles, but our troops are better. Since we're smaller, and are able to be more selective, there'd be something wrong with us if we weren't better. But the army can't accept that."
"Does the army get along with anyone?"
"Not really. There's the historic antagonism with the navy, and then, when the air force split off from the army, there was a great deal of bitterness on both sides. The only fairly amicable relation between services is between us and the air force. The opportunities for conflict are much less."
"So far as I know, I'm not embroiled in any of that. I work for our director on grand futuristic things concerning the likelihood of war under various circumstances, and so on."
"You may not think about service rivalry, but nothing you could do would really be neutral. Whatever kind of war you predict, it'll involve a bigger role for some services than others. Any service will manage to lose any kind of projection which doesn't emphasize its own role in a future war, and which can't be used in the struggle for appropriations."
"So anything I do will end up in the waste-paper basket unless it gives the army a major share of the action?"
"You've got it, boy. You'd better predict limited war with conventional arms. The army can't do anything in a nuclear exchange except hide in the basement."
Tom found this sort of reverse reasoning quite shocking. Nothing like it would have been tolerated at either Harvard or the University of Michigan. But one look at General Howard sufficed. He knew how things worked in the defence establishment, and he wasn't to be doubted. Tom replied,
"I'd probably avoid flat predictions, but just work out probabilities for the success of various grand strategies. What would happen if the director agreed enough to send the results to the army?"
"It's safe to say, with one proviso that I'll mention later, that nothing you do will matter unless it gets to Maxwell Taylor. Which is a big if. He may be the trickiest and most political general who's ever reached the top table. He speaks seven languages, which allows him to speak a different one to each constituency. If your report happens to buttress the line he's pushing at the moment, he'll use it. If not, he may alter it, changing numbers if necessary. Or he may give it some interpretation you never dreamed of. In no case will you ever find out what was done with your report."
"Isn't there some way of getting data and conclusions to someone who's objective?"
General Howard again clapped Tom on the shoulder as he laughed long and loudly. He looked as if he might prod his wife on the arm and point out to her an example of incurable youthful naivite. In the event, he said,
"There may be objective people where you come from, Tom, but there aren't any in Washington. However, there is something which counter-balances abuse of power and monopolization of information. It's the calculated leak."
"I don't think we're allowed to leak anything."
The general smiled as he replied,
"You're not allowed to transmit top secret information to someone who doesn't have that clearance. But we all have top secret clearance. The real secrets aren't the ones we keep from the Russians. They're the ones we keep from each other. Those are the ones that can be leaked."
Tom wasn't sure that his companion would be so offhand about giving secrets to the Russians if he knew that there was a Russian spy some six feet away, but she was well occupied in her conversation. Tom said that he didn't quite understand, and General Howard lowered his voice. It was suddenly as if Tom were with Charles when he spoke,
"Suppose that institute X is supported by service A. In that case, the director, and all his people, are supposed to report only to A. From A's point of view, it would be a high crime for anyone at X to give service B information that could be used against A. Service A would probably rather have it go to the Russians than to B. In theory, it would be treason for a member of X to give it to the Russians while he'd only be being helpful if he gives it to a properly cleared officer of B. But, in pactice, things are very different, if not quite reversed."
Tom was beginning to get the picture, a quite dismal one. He asked,
"Does that ever happen?"
"Hell yes! This kind of treason can be prompted by the highest motives. A researcher at X comes upon something of importance which he knows service A will deliberately lose or bury. So he leaks it to B or C or D."
It must have been clear from Tom's expression that he found all this hard to believe. General Howard continued,
"The same thing happens in other areas of government. J. Edgar Hoover got advance warning of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor via the British, but he buried it because he didn't want to be committed to co-operating with M. I. 6, and because it wouldn't enable him to make the kinds of spectacular arrests which got the bureau newspaper publicity. That particular information wasn't of use to his service."
J. Edgar Hoover had never been Tom's favorite person, but he still felt his brain reel. Throwing caution to the winds, he asked,
"How would a member of X go about leaking something?"
General Howard's eyes twinkled brightly as he whispered,
"Mac Hollins would know exactly how to do it."
Tom replied, also whispering,
"He once communicated something I'd found out to the air force, but he didn't swear me to secrecy or anything."
"Then it must have been something the air force couldn't have used against the army."
Tom nodded. It was nothing to the army whether or not the air force targetted Stalinabad. His companion added,
"If he ever let out the wrong thing, and it got back, all it would take would be a single order from General Taylor. You'd come to work one day and find the doors locked and rental signs in the windows."
Just then, the rest of the group, now conversing in English, broke into their conversation. The general's wife, a distinctly formidable lady, said to Elizaveta,
"If two military men once get going, there's no stopping them. I thought your friend was young enough to be safe, but apparently not."
The general said to her,
"Mr. Williams is at one of the most distinguished military research places. We have a great deal to talk about."
Of course, it wasn't, in general, a secret that Tom worked at DRI. He wanted Elizaveta to assume that he worked for the CIA, but General Howard had no way of knowing that. Tom felt Elizaveta look at him with renewed interest. She then said,
"Tom is always so modest with me. He admits nothing."
"I rather had the feeling that I admitted everything."
"Only the wrong things. Anyway, we've been trying to decide which of these delightful young ladies you should dance with. Perhaps Sharon Summers, the least inhibited girl in the school. She'll loosen your tongue."
Fortunately, in view of Tom's limited ability to dance, this subject was soon dropped. The other couple turned out to be the parents of another girl, Elizaveta's best student. They were worried that no one would dance with their daughter, and the mother, a Mrs. Evans, said,
"I don't think that Anne's unattractive, but she just doesn't know how to talk with boys."
Since the red-haired Mrs. Evans had obviously always known how to talk with boys, she was genuinely puzzled by this inability on the part of her daughter. Elizaveta said,
"I'd rather talk with her than with any of my other students, but she's an intellectual girl. We have a few smart boys here, but they haven't really begun to develop their intelligence."
Mrs. Evans replied, this time with a touch of hysteria in her voice,
"Anne doesn't really even know how to dance."
Mr. Evans said,
"I don't think we need worry about Anne so much. It may be a little difficult just now, but she'll do fine in the long run."
His wife looked doubtful, and Tom said,
"I don't really know how to dance either, but, if no one else seems to be available, ....."
The dancing had just begun, and Mrs. Evans jumped up immediately and walked across the floor, looking very handsome in her gown. She came back with Anne, a tall girl who had none of her mother's grace, and who looked decidedly uncomfortable. They had hardly been introduced before Tom found myself dancing with Anne. She seemed not to be shy, and said,
"I see you don't know how either. Let's get in the middle of the crowd so no one will notice."
"Good idea. Our heads will stick up, but the people who see us won't know what our feet are doing."
Anne seemed pleased with that idea, and they soon found that they could shuffle along, more or less to the music, with small steps. It wasn't long before Anne said,
"You're Madame de la Billiere's friend, aren't you?"
"We've all seen you coming to pick her up. She's the most interesting woman I've ever met."
Tom replied tactfully, and Anne then said,
"Of course, she's not really French. Did you know that?"
It was hard to reply tactfully to that one, and Tom asked Anne what made her think that.
"When she speaks French, her accent isn't right. I've compared it to records. And then, when she speaks English, her accent isn't French."
"Well, she's been in a lot of countries, you know ..."
"I think her accent is Russian. I hope she's a spy."
"Is that what the students think?"
"Oh no. I'm the only one that knows. Are you a spy too?"
"But, Anne, how can you dance with me if you think I may be an enemy agent?"
"Doesn't bother me in the slightest. America's nasty and nationalistic and boring. And you should see most of the students here. They're horrid. I wouldn't mind trying Russia for a bit."
"Have you talked with your mother about these things?"
"No. She just wants me to be a high-class whore."
"I've talked with your mother. She doesn't really want that, you know."
"She wouldn't call it that, but she doesn't think about anything except using sex to catch and manipulate men. She doesn't know how to do anything else."
"She's a glamorous woman, and glamorous women do that. Do you think Anne-Marie doesn't know how to do it?"
"Does she manipulate you?"
"I think she could get me to do almost anything she wanted. Fortunately, she hasn't made any very severe demands."
"She manipulates her students, too. But it's for our own good. And, anyway, she does it with such style. She also conns you into revealing things about your family that you shouldn't, but you don't care."
"I didn't know she did that."
"I think she's just fascinated by gossip and scandal. We've got some good material in our family, but I'm about to run out. I'll have to start making up some things for her benefit."
A boy cut in on them just then, and Tom returned to the chaperon group. When Anne's mother looked at him questioningly, he said,
"I think she'll be fine. She'll be an interesting woman. She is already."
Mrs. Evans replied,
"I was surprised when that boy cut in on you. Do you suppose Anne will know what to say to him?"
"I think she probably will."
Elizaveta then said to Mrs. Evans,
"Anne's a terribly sweet girl, and she admires you a great deal. I don't think you need worry at all."
To add to Tom's amazement, Mrs. Evans smiled, thanked Elizaveta for her words, and launched into a spirited account of the new show of ancient Egyptian art at the National Gallery. She was particularly taken by the jewelry, which, she said, made everything produced since look vulgar. General Howard took exception to this, saying,
"Military insignia is really jewelry, and probably fulfulls a function analogous to that of the little baubles of ancient Egypt. But I'm damned if you can give a man a little coiled silver snake to wear on his collar when you promote him to colonel."
Mrs. Evans, her green eyes sparkling, was delighted by this outburst. She then proceeded to engage the general on a somewhat personal level which he, in turn, enjoyed. When they all got up to dance, Elizaveta asked Tom,
"What did Anne say to you when you danced?"
"Oh, we just talked a little of this and that."
Elizaveta kicked Tom, not terribly gently, in the ankle and said,
"I know Anne better than that."
"Well, she did suggest that her mother is a high-class whore."
Elizaveta sighed and replied,
"And here I go to so much trouble to get her not to say such things."
"Do you also try to get her not to think them?"
"Sometimes she says unpleasant things to her mother's face. It only makes life more difficult for both of them."
"Her mother thinks she doesn't know how to talk to boys. But I think most boys would be interested in hearing Anne's views about her mother."
"Anne may be rather plain, but she has no difficulty with boys. It was her boy friend who cut in on you. He was probably jealous."
"Why didn't you tell her mother that she has a boy friend?"
"It's better for her not to know."
"If the boy's a student here, he must be respectable enough."
"Yes. It's not that, although I think the Evans might think he's too little and wormy."
"People need to worry about some things in order not to worry about others."
The dance ended, and Tom was suddenly too fascinated by Elizaveta to worry about anything else. He couldn't really dance with her, but he could walk with her on his arm and watch other people react to her. It then seemed, for some reason Tom couldn't explain, that she would be still more fascinating if she were his wife. Tom remembered Mr. Desmond's joke about her really defecting to the U. S. if he married her. He also remembered Elizaveta's joke about his defecting to Russia with her.
When they got back to the group, the women all departed for the ladies' room, leaving Tom with the general and Mr. Evans. The latter said,
"That's an extraordinary woman you're with."
As he mumbled in acceptance of the compliment, General Howard said,
"I gather she's a good deal older than you. But it wouldn't make any difference to me if I were you."
Tom wasn't sure quite what the general meant, but he suspected that it concerned marriage. After all, the age difference could otherwise hardly have been supposed to make a difference. Tom said,
"She's eight years older, but it's effectively a good deal more. I've had very little experience with women."
"I think I'd like some experience of ordinary women before I came upon a lady like that."
The music had started again, and, looking out on the floor, they saw Elizaveta dancing with one of the boys. She looked happy as she twirled to the unusually fast music. The boy looked thrilled.
When the dance ended, Elizaveta arrived, blushing, with the boy. He was also in her class, and was introduced all around. His eyes popped a little when he realized who General Howard was, but it seemed to Tom that he was much more poised than he would himself have been at the same age. The general almost had the boy recruited for the marines, but the latter was saved by the arrival of Mrs. Howard with their grandaughter and the latter's friend, Sharon Summers.
That young lady, with Elizaveta's active encouragement, made quite a lot of both Tom and the general. And then, when the equally pretty Miss Howard weighed in with her precocious and considerable social skills, the result amazed Tom. No one seemed to recognize age barriers, and people who were separated by almost fifty years flirted casually and chided each other with familiarity.
When the last dance was called and they all stood up, Tom simply held Elizaveta close and took tiny steps as he moved his hand over her back and up the back of her neck to her hair. She seemed to like it, and if there had been less height difference between them, he would have kissed her. As it was, she laid her head against him and he smelled her hair, a little musty from the activity, but still interesting and exciting.
It was late when they arrived arrived at the little house which Elizaveta shared with two other women teachers. Tom asked,
"Is there any chance of my sneaking in?"
"Definitely not. You must go back to your lonely bed."
Tom attempted to unfasten Elizaveta in back, but she resisted and said,
"No sex until you defect with me."
"But they'd put me in an interrogation cell and give me electric shocks to the genitals."
"Oh no. You'd be treated as a great man in Russia. You'd have every imaginable privilege."
"Your choice of ballerinas from the Bolshoi."
Before Tom could react, Elizaveta kissed him and was gone.